Marvel Anime: Wolverine Review

As I teased last week when I took a look at the X-Men anime, Wolverine’s solo anime outing quite different, in that is far less competent. This was actually made first so it’s not hard to see the changes made to Wolverine in the X-Men anime were presumably done due to how badly the character is handled in this series! Does this 12-episode show have any redeeming factors? Let’s find out!

Synopsis:

Logan learns that his girlfriend Mariko Yashida, who disappeared one year ago, had been taken to Tokyo by her father Shingen Yashida, the head of the Japanese crime syndicate in order to be wed to Hideki Kurohagi, the head of a different crime organization on the island of Madripoor. The man also known as Wolverine heads to the island to recover her…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

“Hey, you’ve been shot.” “Meh.”

This is one of those contradictory things, but I do really like the character designs. They’ve gone for a very 80s look with the characters, things feel very Cyber City Oedo and I love it. As I’ll talk about in the “bad” section this art style doesn’t suit Wolverine at all, but still, it’s a bit of fun… at least something is.

That’s actually being a bit unfair. Some parts of the story are fine, Shingen is a perfectly fine villain and voiced well in the English dub by prolific voice actor Fred Tatasciore, and Wolverine’s female sidekick, for a lack of a better term, Yukio is good. Unlike her comic or live action incarnations she has two retractable circular blades that she can throw around, and her backstory is slightly tweaked to be Shingen’s former employee who betrays him in order to get revenge on him for having killed her parents. There is also a fellow Shingen assassin named Kikyo Mikage (voiced by Steve Blum, who will go on to voice Wolverine himself in the X-Men show…) who can produce katanas out of his wrists the same way Wolverine can produce claws out of his knuckles, and he plays the role of “assassin with a moral code”, trying to fight Logan on even terms and then eventually going against his employer after the latter shows no restraint in who he kills and what method. It’s all very generic, but they’re fine. It’s a shame they didn’t have more to do…

The Bad:

An extreme close up of our lead villain!

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Wolverine has been drawn to be tall, thin and quite handsome, and his English voice actor is pretty off-the-mark and often sounds like he’s trying to sound tough rather than actually being tough (Milo Ventimiglia of “Heroes” fame did the voice, apparently! I guess he just can’t do a tough man voice rather than a complete lack of skill…) When your series is called Wolverine and you get Wolverine completely wrong then your show isn’t off to a good start!

Then we get to the plot, which takes the bare bones of the classic 80s Wolverine mini series and boils it down to “damsel in distress, Wolverine saves her before she tragically dies” and stretches that out across 12 episodes. The first six see him in New York and Japan trying to follow leads, and then the second six are set in Mandripoor and see him slowly make his way to the villains’ base, but pretty much every episode ends with him fighting some sort of mostly generic villain or Omega Red (which I do always enjoy in any media, to be fair). It really was quite mind-numbing, especially because seeing this dull non-Wolverine Wolverine fight a giant speechless statue for three episodes wasn’t what I’d call exciting. Even his final battle with Shingen and seeing snivelling git character Hideki Kurohagi get his comeuppance weren’t that exciting, mostly because the writers thought “Wolverine is immortal, right? So let’s have him clearly lose over and over again and only to beat the baddie because he can heal super fast!” which doesn’t make me like this Wolverine any more than I do already…

This mid-action picture probably has just as much movement as the action scenes in the anime itself.

While I’ve already mentioned I like the art style, the actual animation is pretty poor. A lot of “Wolverine or Yukio taking on a bunch of thugs” scenes amount to still frames of them doing moves with the sounds of the thugs reacting, then a shot of everyone on the floor. Even a lot of the claw-on-sword combat has repeated frames or a lot of cutaways to give the illusion of movement without actually animating someone moving. It’s just another wrinkle to a pretty poor show overall.

Overall Thoughts:

Good old Omega Red. I’m pretty my love for him comes entirely from the CAPCOM fighting games, but hey-ho. I’ll take it.

Wolverine has a really badly realised Wolverine, both visually and vocally, and the story barely lasts four episodes worth of content but is instead stretched to 12. Throw in some fun character designs that are often badly animated and you have a show that’s not very entertaining. As I said in last week’s review, I’m glad I watched X-Men first, this show would’ve put me off the whole “Marvel Anime” sub-series entirely…

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